Producer, composer and all round musician gives us a 101 on the underground hip hop scene.
“I want one of my songs to be on the Billboard charts,” says Rajdeep Sinha aka Stunnah - the Guwahati-based producer who is and one half of the hip-hop / trap production duo Stunnah Sez Beatz. “Everyday, I wake up and work towards that goal. No excuses for hard work. Beats, clients, placement opportunities - I hustle to make it happen.”
Stunnah, one of the pioneers of hip hop music in India
Born and raised in Shillong, Sinha, along with his partner, has played an incremental role in pushing India’s hip-hop community towards promising new frontiers. “The hip-hop community has grown exponentially in the past few years,” he says. “Back when I first started, most of the guys were just listeners or fans. Now more people are experimenting with the art and also investing in it to raise the bar.” Before he re-invented himself as a beat producer, Sinha found himself battling and posting songs online on forums such as Insignia Rap Combat. “I remember the song that got me hooked,” he says. “It was way back in 2003 - my friend played 50 Cent’s ‘In Da Club’ for me and that just became my jam. I was listening to it everyday.” His earliest influence though was a track called ‘Meri Marzi’ (The Gambler, 1995) that was sung by India’s own version of Weird Al Yankovich, Devang Patel. “Man that’s embarrassing,” he says. “My mum still tells me stories about how I used to incorporate the lyrics into everyday conversations.”
Stunnah aka Rajdeep wrote his first verse at 17
From 50 Cent, Sinha moved onto collecting hip-hop mixtapes and CDs from his local market. “I bought everything,” he says. “From Eminem to Lil Wayne to compilation tapes featuring some rappers that nobody has ever heard of - I had everything. I knew this music was for me.” He started writing his own verses at the age of 17 - under the heavy influence of Eminem and Lil Wayne. “I thought rap was all about flexing,” he says. “My knowledge about the genre only increased once I joined Insignia. You could pick up new knowledge and skills almost every single day.” He recorded his first single on top of an Eminem instrumental - and in an effort learn polish his production value - quit rapping until he could master the production aspect of the music. “Initially, it was so that I could improve my own songs,” he says. “But then, after a few months, I was addicted to making beats. I haven’t stopped making them since then and I haven’t been in front of a mic either.”
Sinha put in a lot of work - experimenting with different production techniques in an effort to hone his craft - and also gave away a lot of beats for free to his contemporaries. “Eventually, I got frustrated,” he says. “I needed to make this financially viable. Once I figured it out, I approached Sez with the idea and our venture took off.” Sez aka Sajeel Kapoor is a resident of Ashok Nagar, Delhi - 18. Also a member of the Insignia Rap Combat forum, Sinha and Kapoor hit it off from the get go. “I think we battled each other once,” says Sinha. “He used to be on the forum under the moniker War-Child. I think I’m the only one who ever beat him in a text-battle!”
He’s behind some of the biggest hip hop tracks in the country
Since they got together, the production duo have been behind some of the biggest homegrown hip-hop tracks that have come out in the industry. From producing the title track for All India Bakchod’s ‘On Air With AIB’ show to this summer’s massive hit ‘Jungli Sher’ (by Divine), the duo have established themselves as the go-to team for hip-hop production in the country. Now, they’re looking towards the West. “We recently produced a beat for Phora and Hopsin,” he says. “That’s been the biggest achievement we’ve had so far.”
On the future of Indian hip-hop, Sinha remains cautiously optimistic about where it’s headed. “We’ve made some improvements,” he says. “But we still have a long way to go. We’re still behind the Japanese and South-Korean hip-hop scenes. While MCs, producers, and promoters are making moves, I still find our scene lacking a bit of quality. But it’s up to use to make it happen and ensure that Indian hip-hop makes a mark on the global hip-hop scene. All I want is everybody to give their 100%.”
Beats by Stunnah
Stunnah Beatz features in the Hip Hop Homeland journey. Watch it now on 101India.com.
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By Uday Kapur